Home photo printing declining while smartphone photos are prevalent [MetaFAQs]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, October 20, 2020

Even while taking pictures is a regular part of most American’s lives as an everyday activity with their smartphone, printing them on a home printer is a declining trend. This MetaFAQs reports on the regular use of home printers to print photos and the use of smartphones to take pictures from 2016 through 2020.

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Scanners, scanning, and disappearing paper [TUPdate]

Inertia simultaneously saves and disrupts technological transformation. Scanners and printers with integrated scanners have been at the heart of the paper to digital change. So much that was paper is now electronic. The “paperless office” has been a hyped cliché for decades, and yet is truer with each passing year. Although electronic signatures have been legal for over 20 years in most countries, and digital copies are increasingly acceptable in many cases, the migration from paper to electronic lumbers along gradually. Consumers and businesses alike continue to need to convert hardcopy documents and images into electronic form.

Standalone Scanners Subsiding

Scanning is still alive, although standalone scanners are only being used by a relative few.

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The regular use of a standalone scanner has sagged across a range of countries, as we found in research results from the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile survey. Our TUP 2019 survey of 11,625 respondents in the US, Germany, and China show that only a small percent of online adults use a standalone scanner.

There are a range of standalone scanners available, as distinct from the scanners included in MFP (Multi-Function Printers).  Standalone scanners with ADFs (automatic document feeders) are well-suited to converting large batches of documents into a digital form, either for archiving or for wider use in a new electronic form. Flatbed scanners are useful for incidental scanning. Specialized scanners, such as business card scanners, are also useful for specific tasks. All these types of standalone scanners are included within these numbers, reflecting their niche use.

Standalone neither young nor old

Younger generations, many referred to as digital natives, have not embraced standalone scanners. Neither are older adults the major users of paper scanners. The share of age 18-24 and 25-34 are effectively the same as among age 55-64 and 65 and older.

What the young do

Younger Americans – especially age 25-34 – have a unique scanning profile. As compared to any other age group, they are above average in using standalone scanners to scan personal documents, personal photographs, work documents, and work photographs. Americans age 55+ stand out in being well above average in scanning personal documents. These older are adults are also well below average in scanning personal photographs and work documents or photographs.

Difference of One or Many among Young and Old

Older Americans that use standalone scanners use flatbed one-document-at-a-time scanners at a much higher rate than younger Americans. While 78% of American scanner users age 65+ use a flatbed scanner, only 26% of adults age 18-24 do so. Instead, a higher share of younger adults use a multi-document scanner, with 61% of standalone scanners age 18-24 using one and 54% of age 25-34. Neither younger nor older Americans are primarily using a portable/business card scanner. Among these least-used devices, there’s a slightly younger skew.

More ways than one

Many online adults use computer printers for scanning, choosing either those with single-sheet platens or automatic document feeders (ADF).

Use of printers for scanning is more widespread than use of standalone scanners. Roughly ten times as many adults regularly use their primary printer for scanning as use a standalone printer. The percent of online adults in the US is 36%, 35% in China, and 46% in Germany. These rates are down somewhat from 2015 through 2019 in the many countries we surveyed.

Printer scanning for elders

When using a computer printer to scan, a much higher share of scanning is among older than younger Americans. Half (50%) of online Americans age 65 and higher use their primary printer to scan photos or documents. Among online Americans age 54 and younger, only 35% or fewer regularly use a printer to scan.

One at a time

Over three-fourths (78%) of Americans who scan using a printer only scan one document at a time. Almost half of that number, 37%, only scan multiple items using an automated document feeder. Another half of that number, 16%, regularly do both.

Looking ahead

The silent substitute competition for scanners is near at hand – smartphones. Although arguably smartphones don’t handle the highest demands for scanning, they’re more than adequate for many purposes. Archiving large batches of documents or photographs will continue to be a job for high-end standalone scanners. To take a quick scan of a document, though, to share with others, is well within the capability of nearly every smartphone, and that’s even before the use of specialized scanning or deskewing apps. Add smartphone apps like Microsoft Lens, CamScanner, or the many others that include OCR (optical character recognition) and most needs are covered well enough.

Yet another substitute for scanning is also silent – paperless statements. The majority of banks, brokerages, creditors, utilities, and other suppliers continue to encourage their customers to move from paper to electronic statements. Also, tax and other governmental authorities are increasingly digital, both sending and receiving documents electronically. This reduces the demand for customers to scan paper documents that they can simply download and send to whoever needs a copy.

These trends don’t mean that scanning will completely go away. In fact, most of the decline has already happened for scanner use and scanning with printers. These devices and activities have dropped to the realm of being a niche and are likely to remain so.

About TUPdates

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

Current subscribers may use the comprehensive TUP datasets to obtain even more results or tailor these results to fit their chosen segments, services, or products. As subscribers choose, they may use the TUP inquiry service, online interactive tools, or analysis previously published by MetaFacts.

On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions about technology users – or TUPdates – analysis of current and essential technology industry topics. To subscribe, contact MetaFacts.

Usage guidelines: This document may be freely shared within and outside your organization in its entirety and unaltered. To share or quote excerpts, please contact MetaFacts.

How and where PCs and tablets are used differently than smartphones [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, January 11, 2019

People love their smartphones and find more to do with them than PCs or tablets. Around the world, there are few activities done with PCs as regularly as are done with smartphones. Furthermore, there are no activities done more so on tablets than on either smartphones or PCs. Usage profiles vary somewhat by country. Online adults in the U.S. use their connected devices differently than users in many other countries.

These findings are based on the TUP/Technology User Profile 2018 study of 14,273 online adults in the US, UK, Germany, India, and China. Of the more-than 70 activities in the TUP survey tied to each device, we identified those with the widest range of regular use across devices – defined as the difference between the maximum and minimum usage level between smartphone, PC, and tablet users.

The versatility of smartphones is shown by how much more often they’re the device of choice for nearly every type of activity, from shopping to social networking and fun. The range of activity use is as high as 65% – in the case of making and receiving personal phone calls.

Smartphones are being used the most widely for device-unique activities. The four major activities for smartphones – personal phone calls, taking pictures, text messaging, and storing one’s contacts – are infrequently done on a PC or sablet. Although the newest tablets have cameras that approach the quality of those on smartphones, less than a quarter (22%) are being used to take pictures. Also, despite being able to run apps such as WhatsApp or WeChat on Tablets or PCs, phone calls are primarily on smartphones, even while personal video calls have made inroads on non-phone devices.

PCs are mostly being used for email (personal or work), online shopping (bigger screens entice buyers), and online banking. Tablets are mostly being used for social networking and music listening.

There is a small amount of crossover of activity usage across devices. Two of the major activities for smartphones are also leading ones on tablets – adding photos to social media and commenting on other’s images or comments.

American adults use their devices somewhat differently than users in other countries. In addition to personal and work email, PCs are used more often than smartphones or tablets for shopping, banking, finances/accounting, and writing.

Tablets are being used more like PCs than smartphones. The major activities for tablets, although with smaller percentages than PCs, are also among the major activities for PCs. Also, in the US, UK, and Germany, tablets are used more often than either PCs or smartphones for reading a book and making small purchases in person, such as in a coffee shop.

Where PCs dominate

Smartphones aren’t the only connected device users actively use. There are many activities used at a higher rate on PCs than on smartphones are tablets. Sending and checking both personal and work email are high on the list across all of the countries surveyed except for India. Also, writing and managing text documents is a PC-preferred activity except in India. In Germany, writing documents is an especially PC-dominant activity. Also, activities relating to using a printer are strongest when using a PC.

Looking ahead

Habits change slowly. Not only do people find effective ways to use connected devices to do what they want, they also show inertia when slowly moving those activities to a different device. Even those users who have multiple devices continue to use the types of devices they had previously for some time before fully embracing a type of device new to them.

Furthermore, there isn’t a single “silver bullet” device that’s preferred for all activities. For some activities, such as reading a book, shopping, or watching television, having a larger display helps. For other activities, such as receiving phone calls or texting, convenience and mobility are key.

We don’t expect the majority of users to concentrate all of their activities on a single device in the near future. Instead, the multi-device experience will continue. PCs may continue to lose their dominance for the many activities they still dominate. Dedicated PC users may just move more of their attention to tablets, especially those focused on passive activities such as social networking or television watching.

About TUPdates

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from multiple waves of TUP/Technology User Profile, including the 2018 edition which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave.

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

Current subscribers may use the comprehensive TUP datasets to obtain even more results or tailor these results to fit their chosen segments, services, or products. As subscribers choose, they may use the TUP inquiry service, online interactive tools, or analysis previously published by MetaFacts.

On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions about technology users – or TUPdates – analysis of current and essential technology industry topics. To subscribe, contact MetaFacts.

Usage guidelines: This document may be freely shared within and outside your organization in its entirety and unaltered. To share or quote excerpts, please contact MetaFacts.

The most creative – PCs or smartphones? [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, February 9, 2017


Creativity eludes definition, yet we know and admire it when we see or feel it. Well beyond simple clicks, creative activities greatly add to the collective oeuvre while also giving voice to expression.

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It might well be argued that creativity is shown in the clever use of hashtags, emojis, or Snapchat video filters. I’m choosing to identify creativity broadly and practically – how the most-creative, most-involved tech activities get done. Activities such as creating presentations and videos require forethought and a blending of skills. Some activities such as taking photographs are now so widely commonplace that the activity spans the professional photographer to the budding amateur. So, for this analysis, I’m considering this a moderately-creative activity.

Continue reading “The most creative – PCs or smartphones? [TUPdate]”
Usage guidelines: This document may be freely shared within and outside your organization in its entirety and unaltered. To share or quote excerpts, please contact MetaFacts.